Re: Meme Extinction

Peter Bentley (
Tue, 27 May 1997 13:37:08 -0700

Date: Tue, 27 May 1997 13:37:08 -0700
From: Peter Bentley <>
To: memetics <>
Subject: Re: Meme Extinction

> I was reading through the JOM, and was struck by the notion of memes going
> extinct. A paradox occurred to me. Would it not be impossible, by
> definition, to study "extinct" memes?
> After all, if we define extinction of a meme as a lack of habitation in any
> sort of information storage or transmission medium (such as a book or human
> mind), wouldn't the very act of studying the meme revive it from
> extinction? The person studying it would necessarily then become the host
> for the meme, and it would then no longer be extinct. Sort of a catch-22.

If an extinct meme cannot exist in any form of information storage, it cannot
be studied. By finding a single reference in some obscure book, you prove that
it was never extinct at all.

So a truly extinct meme cannot be searched for directly. Only the 'gap' can
be searched for, e.g. a missing word describing something that required a
word for it, in a language.

See what I meme?

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